Age on Opening Day 2016: 31
How acquired: Signed as free agent, Dec. 2015
2016 salary: $8 million
2015 stats: 130 G, 538 PA, 56 R, 140 H, 38 2B, 2 3B, 14 HR, 73 RBI, 2 SB, 31 BB, 38 SO, .281 BA, .322 OBP, .449 SLG, .770 OPS, 113 OPS+, 6 E, 1.4 WAR
2016 storyline: For all the talk about the Nationals have a terrible offseason and how they swung-and-missed on all their free agent targets, they did technically reel in one of the best players available this winter and he does fill a need both as a second baseman and a left-handed hitter. That would be Daniel Murphy, who in 2016 will play the first season of his three-year, $37.5 million contract with Washington.
Murphy joins the Nationals from the rival New York Mets as a contact-hitting infielder who can play multiple positions on defense. In 2016, it would not be surprising at all to see him play some at first base if Ryan Zimmerman gets injured, some at third if Anthony Rendon goes down, and perhaps even some in the outfield. With the way the Nats have gone with injuries in recent years, anything is possible. Just ask Danny Espinosa.
Murphy brings playoff experience and smarts to the Nationals clubhouse. As GM Mike Rizzo would argue, he may bring a little "grit" as well. Despite playing for many losing teams in New York, he now knows what it takes to make a deep playoff run after helping lead the Mets to the World Series in 2016.
Best-case scenario: One of the things the Nats like about Murphy is his consistency. But one area he could improve on this season, if the playoffs were any indication, are his power numbers. Murphy set a career-high during the 2015 regular season with 14 homers and then added seven more in the playoffs. That's a total of 21 home runs in 144 games played, 130 regular season games and 14 more in the playoffs.
Was that a sign of more to come? When asked if that could be the case earlier this month, Rizzo quipped: "[Playoff homers] count too, don't they?"
If that's any indication, the Nationals think they could have a player who is developing into a 20-homer guy. Murphy himself credited his power surge with an adjustment in his swing. Perhaps that was the fix he needed to unleash his previously dormant power.
Worst-case scenario: Murphy has played his entire career in New York, so there is always the chance that a change of scenery affects him. But given his steady career numbers, that would seem unlikely.
What could more realistically present problems for the Nationals, however, is his defense. It is his biggest knock and the Nats were already a below-average defensive team in 2015 based on several categories including defensive runs saved, where they placed 23rd. They were also 21st in defensive efficiency. As far as their middle infield, they were 27th in double plays turned.
Murphy will probably have the luxury of playing with Espinosa as his double-play partner and Espinosa could help mask some of Murphy's issues with range by snagging balls up the middle. But it will be interesting to see how he plays with Trea Turner, if and when Turner sees time at shortstop. Turner committed 21 errors in 111 total games last year split between three levels, including the majors. He is still learning defense and pairing him with Murphy could present problems up the middle for the Nats.
Most-likely scenario: As mentioned above, you generally know what you are going to get each season with Murphy. He is durable and usually plays 140 games per season or more. He is almost always in the .280 to .290 range. Usually you can look for double-digit homers and an OPS above .730.
Murphy is also very good at not striking out. He led the majors with a 97.5 contact percentage on pitches in the zone last season. A .285 batting average may not win him the MVP award, but his approach could help improve the Nats lineup by cutting down on strikeouts and putting the ball in play.